BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Etowah County school board officials say they are investigating, after the Southside High School prom was shut down for awhile for what appeared to be a search for some type of illegal contraband.
The prom happened Friday night, March 22, at Gadsden Convention Hall. Garner Polston is a senior who recently transferred from Southside to another school, but was there with his girlfriend, a Southside student. He even shot some video with his Android phone, of what appeared to be a table-to-table search. In the video, some Gadsden Police officers and at least one Etowah County deputy, all in uniform, were seen in the background.
Polston says he, his date and his friends all danced for a couple of hours before the prom stopped.
"All of the sudden, the lights had come on, and the deejay came over his intercom and told everybody to 'go back to your tables and sit down, and just stay there,'" Polston recalls. "That's when the SRO and couple of Gadsden Police officers started walking around tables and checking through purses, and jackets, and all that."
Polston says during that time, officers blocked the exits and wouldn't let anyone leave. After about ten minutes, they started allowing people to get up and to leave if they wanted, but those who left had their coats and purses searched.
According to Polston, some prom attendees were seen leaving the prom with officers, but he has no idea if they were actually arrested or face any type of school sanctions. He says officers never explained what prompted the incident or whether they were looking for drugs, alcohol or something else.
Polston says the event was "disappointing," and "they just pretty much ruined the good time we were supposed to have." He says he's been to several proms at Gadsden City High School and Southside, but this is the only time he's seen this happen.
Polston's mother, Leigh Corfman, used even stronger language, saying she was "horrified" and calling the evening a "total nightmare."
"What about their rights?" she said to Fox6 News.
Etowah County Chief Investigator Mike Jones says our inquiry was the first he heard about the incident, but speculated any deputies who were present were likely school resource officers.
Gadsden Police Capt. Paul Cody referred our questions to Etowah County School Superintendent Alan Cosby, who released a statement:
"I've been made aware of events that happened at the Southside prom at Convention Hall. Dr. (Marguerite) Early (principal of Southside High) and her staff are conducting a thorough investigation. As soon as we know the results of that investigation, we'll know how to proceed."